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Underdog Toyota tops Audi in Brazilian hybrid battle

Hybrids are now the pace-setters in World Endurance Championship racing

Published: September 18, 2012, 5:00 AM
Updated: November 22, 2021, 3:56 PM

Toyota TS030 hybrid wins at Interlagos - 2012

It's not often that mighty Toyota can be cast in the David role. But such is the case on the battlefield of the FIA World Endurance Championship racing, where Audi is the well-established Goliath.

In the Six Hours of Sao Paulo at the Interlagos circuit in Brazil, last weekend – the fifth round of the 2012 Championship series – David defeated Goliath.

After taking pole position in their single-entry Toyota Racing TS030 Hybrid, drivers Alex Wurz and Nicolas Lapierre led from start to finish, giving the team its first victory in just its third race.

It was a dominant win, with a lead of more than a minute when the checkered flag flew. While this was the Toyota's first win, the number-7 car had led every race in which it competed.

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The previously-dominant Audi team's pair of R18 racers – one diesel-hybrid and one conventional diesel – finished second and third in that order, respectively.

The last time Toyota won an international endurance racing was 20 years ago, with its TS010 racer at Monza in 1992.

The company began developing a hybrid system for racing in 2006, under the direction of Hisatake Murata, now Hybrid Project Leader at Toyota Racing.

In 2007, a Toyota Supra became the first-ever hybrid winner, in Japan's Tokachi 24 Hour race, using a pioneering super-capacitor technology for energy storage.

That technology has been further developed, reducing weight and increasing power, to become a key component in the unique powertrain of the TS030 Hybrid, where it provides a temporary boost of up to 300 horsepower.

After the race, driver Nicolas Lapierre said: "Since the beginning, we know we have a fast car. After leading at Le Mans we had to work on the reliability. After the podium at Silverstone we had to improve our fuel consumption." At Interlagos they clearly accomplished those goals.

They also served notice on Audi that future wins are not the Germans' birthright to claim. They will be contested.

Yoshiaki Kinoshita, team President for Toyota Racing paid tribute to Audi: "Thanks also to Audi for a clean fight; we really enjoyed competing with them and they were very fair. We have huge respect for them and what they have achieved over the past decade and more; to beat such a strong opponent has not been easy."

He added: We know Audi will come back strongly in the next races so we are looking forward to continuing our close, and genuinely friendly, rivalry."

With hybrids taking both first and second place, as welling as winning previously in Audi form, it is now apparent that they have become the technology to beat, potentially changing the face of endurance racing going forward.

Three races remain on the 2012 schedule. The next is in Bahrain on September 29, followed by Japan and China, all within the next six weeks.

While the drivers’ championship remains open, Audi already clinched the manufacturers’ championship in the fourth round at Silverstone.